Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is difficult to recycle, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), because of the production techniques used to create MDF. Schemes are in place within the U.S. and in other countries, such as the U.K., to develop recycling and reuse strategies for used MDF furniture and the waste products created in the production process.
MDF is a type of wood particle board created during the 1960s, and uses a process of gluing wood fibers together under high heat and pressure. The environmental qualities of MDF include the use of recycled wood to create MDF products. Recycling MDF is difficult because of the high levels of urea-formaldehyde (UF) resin in the glue used to produce MDF boards, according to the EPA. UF is a known carcinogen that is constantly released from untreated MDF boards. The cutting and disintegration of MDF products and waste results in the release of UF particles into the air that have the ability to cause certain forms of cancer.
Around 99 percent of the waste products created in the manufacturing process of MDF is diverted to landfill sites, according to the Furniture Industry Research Association. Waste products can be used in a remanufacturing process where waste MDF boards are used in the manufacture of new MDF-based products. Other products that can be created from waste MDF products include animal bedding produced largely from MDF dust and the composting of MDF waste to biodegrade for use as fertilizer.
To recycle waste MDF products, the incineration process can be used to create and capture energy that can be used in the MDF production process or for off-site energy consumption. Incineration with energy capture is one of three ways of disposing of waste MDF products that are commonly used; the other methods of disposal are incineration without energy capture and transportation to landfill sites. Washington State University describes the incineration of MDF waste as a biofuel.
The EPA's Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response operates pilot schemes to assess different methods of recycling MDF waste products. The bio-degrading of MDF wood chips used as mulch for structural support of agricultural soils has been shown to have many benefits in improving the agricultural quality of soils. MDF wood mulch chips produce the end products carbon dioxide, ammonium and water. Organic carbon can be introduced to soils using recycled MDF mulch. By introducing MDF mulch, inorganic carbon fertilizers do not need to be used.
- Environmental Protection Agency: Potential Recycling of Medium-Density Fiberboard
- Washington State University: A New Process for Recycling Waste Boards
- Waste & Recycling Action Program: Life Cycle of Closed Loop MDF Recycling
- Furniture Industry Research Association: Recycling MDF
- Online Schools: What is MDF?
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